Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. In 2015, pollution killed 9 million people in the world.
Major forms of pollution include: Air pollution, light pollution, littering, noise pollution, plastic pollution, soil contamination, radioactive contamination, thermal pollution, visual pollution, water pollution.
Air pollution has always accompanied civilizations. Pollution started from prehistoric times, when man created the first fires. According to a 1983 article in the journal Science, "soot" found on ceilings of prehistoric caves provides ample evidence of the high levels of pollution that was associated with inadequate ventilation of open fires." Metal forging appears to be a key turning point in the creation of significant air pollution levels outside the home. Core samples of glaciers in Greenland indicate increases in pollution associated with Greek, Roman, and Chinese metal production.
The burning of coal and wood, and the presence of many horses in concentrated areas made the cities the primary sources of pollution. The Industrial Revolution brought an infusion of untreated chemicals and wastes into local streams that served as the water supply. King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London in 1272, after its smoke became a problem; the fuel was so common in England that this earliest of names for it was acquired because it could be carted away from some shores by the wheelbarrow.
It was the industrial revolution that gave birth to environmental pollution as we know it today. London also recorded one of the earlier extreme cases of water quality problems with the Great Stink on the Thames of 1858, which led to construction of the London sewerage system soon afterward. Pollution issues escalated as population growth far exceeded viability of neighborhoods to handle their waste problem. Reformers began to demand sewer systems and clean water.
The primitive conditions were intolerable for a world national capital, and the Imperial German government brought in its scientists, engineers, and urban planners to not only solve the deficiencies, but to forge Berlin as the world's model city. A British expert in 1906 concluded that Berlin represented "the most complete application of science, order and method of public life," adding "it is a marvel of civic administration, the most modern and most perfectly organized city that there is."
The emergence of great factories and consumption of immense quantities of coal gave rise to unprecedented air pollution and the large volume of industrial chemical discharges added to the growing load of untreated human waste. Chicago and Cincinnati were the first two American cities to enact laws ensuring cleaner air in 1881. Pollution became a major issue in the United States in the early twentieth century, as progressive reformers took issue with air pollution caused by coal burning, water pollution caused by bad sanitation, and street pollution caused by the 3 million horses who worked in American cities in 1900, generating large quantities of urine and manure. As historian Martin Melosi notes, The generation that first saw automobiles replacing the horses saw cars as "miracles of cleanliness.". By the 1940s, however, automobile-caused smog was a major issue in Los Angeles.
Other cities followed around the country until early in the 20th century, when the short lived Office of Air Pollution was created under the Department of the Interior. Extreme smog events were experienced by the cities of Los Angeles and Donora, Pennsylvania in the late 1940s, serving as another public reminder.
Air pollution would continue to be a problem in England, especially later during the industrial revolution, and extending into the recent past with the Great Smog of 1952. Awareness of atmospheric pollution spread widely after World War II, with fears triggered by reports of radioactive fallout from atomic warfare and testing. Then a non-nuclear event – the Great Smog of 1952 in London – killed at least 4000 people. This prompted some of the first major modern environmental legislation: the Clean Air Act of 1956.
Pollution began to draw major public attention in the United States between the mid-1950s and early 1970s, when Congress passed the Noise Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Severe incidents of pollution helped increase consciousness. PCB dumping in the Hudson River resulted in a ban by the EPA on consumption of its fish in 1974. National news stories in the late 1970s – especially the long-term dioxin contamination at Love Canal starting in 1947 and uncontrolled dumping in Valley of the Drums – led to the Superfund legislation of 1980. The pollution of industrial land gave rise to the name brownfield, a term now common in city planning.
The development of nuclear science introduced radioactive contamination, which can remain lethally radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Lake Karachay – named by the Worldwatch Institute as the "most polluted spot" on earth – served as a disposal site for the Soviet Union throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Chelyabinsk, Russia, is considered the "Most polluted place on the planet".
Nuclear weapons continued to be tested in the Cold War, especially in the earlier stages of their development. The toll on the worst-affected populations and the growth since then in understanding about the critical threat to human health posed by radioactivity has also been a prohibitive complication associated with nuclear power. Though extreme care is practiced in that industry, the potential for disaster suggested by incidents such as those at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl pose a lingering specter of public mistrust. Worldwide publicity has been intense on those disasters. Widespread support for test ban treaties has ended almost all nuclear testing in the atmosphere.
International catastrophes such as the wreck of the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker off the coast of Brittany in 1978 and the Bhopal disaster in 1984 have demonstrated the universality of such events and the scale on which efforts to address them needed to engage. The borderless nature of atmosphere and oceans inevitably resulted in the implication of pollution on a planetary level with the issue of global warming. Most recently the term persistent organic pollutant (POP) has come to describe a group of chemicals such as PBDEs and PFCs among others. Though their effects remain somewhat less well understood owing to a lack of experimental data, they have been detected in various ecological habitats far removed from industrial activity such as the Arctic, demonstrating diffusion and bioaccumulation after only a relatively brief period of widespread use.
A much more recently discovered problem is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge concentration of plastics, chemical sludge and other debris which has been collected into a large area of the Pacific Ocean by the North Pacific Gyre. This is a less well known pollution problem than the others described above, but nonetheless has multiple and serious consequences such as increasing wildlife mortality, the spread of invasive species and human ingestion of toxic chemicals. Organizations such as 5 Gyres have researched the pollution and, along with artists like Marina DeBris, are working toward publicizing the issue.
Pollution introduced by light at night is becoming a global problem, more severe in urban centres, but nonetheless contaminating also large territories, far away from towns.
Growing evidence of local and global pollution and an increasingly informed public over time have given rise to environmentalism and the environmental movement, which generally seek to limit human impact on the environment.
The major forms of pollution are listed below along with the particular contaminant relevant to each of them:
A pollutant is a waste material that pollutes air, water, or soil. Three factors determine the severity of a pollutant: its chemical nature, the concentration and the persistence.
Pollution has a cost. Manufacturing activities that cause air pollution impose health and clean-up costs on the whole of society, whereas the neighbors of an individual who chooses to fire-proof his home may benefit from a reduced risk of a fire spreading to their own homes. A manufacturing activity that causes air pollution is an example of a negative externality in production. A negative externality in production occurs “when a firm’s production reduces the well-being of others who are not compensated by the firm." For example, if a laundry firm exists near a polluting steel manufacturing firm, there will be increased costs for the laundry firm because of the dirt and smoke produced by the steel manufacturing firm. If external costs exist, such as those created by pollution, the manufacturer will choose to produce more of the product than would be produced if the manufacturer were required to pay all associated environmental costs. Because responsibility or consequence for self-directed action lies partly outside the self, an element of externalization is involved. If there are external benefits, such as in public safety, less of the good may be produced than would be the case if the producer were to receive payment for the external benefits to others. However, goods and services that involve negative externalities in production, such as those that produce pollution, tend to be over-produced and underpriced since the externality is not being priced into the market.
Pollution can also create costs for the firms producing the pollution. Sometimes firms choose, or are forced by regulation, to reduce the amount of pollution that they are producing. The associated costs of doing this are called abatement costs, or marginal abatement costs if measured by each additional unit. In 2005 pollution abatement capital expenditures and operating costs in the US amounted to nearly $27 billion.
Society derives some indirect utility from pollution, otherwise there would be no incentive to pollute. This utility comes from the consumption of goods and services that create pollution. Therefore, it is important that policymakers attempt to balance these indirect benefits with the costs of pollution in order to achieve an efficient outcome.
It is possible to use environmental economics to determine which level of pollution is deemed the social optimum. For economists, pollution is an “external cost and occurs only when one or more individuals suffer a loss of welfare,” however, there exists a socially optimal level of pollution at which welfare is maximized. This is because consumers derive utility from the good or service manufactured, which will outweigh the social cost of pollution until a certain point. At this point the damage of one extra unit of pollution to society, the marginal cost of pollution, is exactly equal to the marginal benefit of consuming one more unit of the good or service.
In markets with pollution, or other negative externalities in production, the free market equilibrium will not account for the costs of pollution on society. If the social costs of pollution are higher than the private costs incurred by the firm, then the true supply curve will be higher. The point at which the social marginal cost and market demand intersect gives the socially optimal level of pollution. At this point, the quantity will be lower and the price will be higher in comparison to the free market equilibrium. Therefore, the free market outcome could be considered a market failure because it “does not maximize efficiency”.
Air pollution comes from both natural and human-made (anthropogenic) sources. However, globally human-made pollutants from combustion, construction, mining, agriculture and warfare are increasingly significant in the air pollution equation.
Motor vehicle emissions are one of the leading causes of air pollution. China, United States, Russia, India Mexico, and Japan are the world leaders in air pollution emissions. Principal stationary pollution sources include chemical plants, coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, nuclear waste disposal activity, incinerators, large livestock farms (dairy cows, pigs, poultry, etc.), PVC factories, metals production factories, plastics factories, and other heavy industry. Agricultural air pollution comes from contemporary practices which include clear felling and burning of natural vegetation as well as spraying of pesticides and herbicides
About 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year. The United States alone produces about 250 million metric tons. Americans constitute less than 5% of the world's population, but produce roughly 25% of the world’s CO
2, and generate approximately 30% of world’s waste. In 2007, China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of CO
2, while still far behind based on per capita pollution – ranked 78th among the world's nations.
In February 2007, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), representing the work of 2,500 scientists, economists, and policymakers from more than 120 countries, said that humans have been the primary cause of global warming since 1950. Humans have ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the consequences of global warming, a major climate report concluded. But to change the climate, the transition from fossil fuels like coal and oil needs to occur within decades, according to the final report this year from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Some of the more common soil contaminants are chlorinated hydrocarbons (CFH), heavy metals (such as chromium, cadmium – found in rechargeable batteries, and lead – found in lead paint, aviation fuel and still in some countries, gasoline), MTBE, zinc, arsenic and benzene. In 2001 a series of press reports culminating in a book called Fateful Harvest unveiled a widespread practice of recycling industrial byproducts into fertilizer, resulting in the contamination of the soil with various metals. Ordinary municipal landfills are the source of many chemical substances entering the soil environment (and often groundwater), emanating from the wide variety of refuse accepted, especially substances illegally discarded there, or from pre-1970 landfills that may have been subject to little control in the U.S. or EU. There have also been some unusual releases of polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, commonly called dioxins for simplicity, such as TCDD.
Pollution can also be the consequence of a natural disaster. For example, hurricanes often involve water contamination from sewage, and petrochemical spills from ruptured boats or automobiles. Larger scale and environmental damage is not uncommon when coastal oil rigs or refineries are involved. Some sources of pollution, such as nuclear power plants or oil tankers, can produce widespread and potentially hazardous releases when accidents occur.
Adverse air quality can kill many organisms including humans. Ozone pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. Water pollution causes approximately 14,000 deaths per day, mostly due to contamination of drinking water by untreated sewage in developing countries. An estimated 500 million Indians have no access to a proper toilet, Over ten million people in India fell ill with waterborne illnesses in 2013, and 1,535 people died, most of them children. Nearly 500 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. A 2010 analysis estimated that 1.2 million people died prematurely each year in China because of air pollution. The high smog levels China has been facing for a long time can do damage to civilians bodies and generate different diseases  The WHO estimated in 2007 that air pollution causes half a million deaths per year in India. Studies have estimated that the number of people killed annually in the United States could be over 50,000.
Oil spills can cause skin irritations and rashes. Noise pollution induces hearing loss, high blood pressure, stress, and sleep disturbance. Mercury has been linked to developmental deficits in children and neurologic symptoms. Older people are majorly exposed to diseases induced by air pollution. Those with heart or lung disorders are at additional risk. Children and infants are also at serious risk. Lead and other heavy metals have been shown to cause neurological problems. Chemical and radioactive substances can cause cancer and as well as birth defects.
An October 2017 study by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health found that global pollution, specifically toxic air, water, soils and workplaces, kill nine million people annually, which is triple the number of deaths caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and 15 times higher than deaths caused by wars and other forms of human violence. The study concluded that "pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the Anthropocene era. Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies."
Pollution has been found to be present widely in the environment. There are a number of effects of this:
The Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (TEHIP) at the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains a comprehensive toxicology and environmental health web site that includes access to resources produced by TEHIP and by other government agencies and organizations. This web site includes links to databases, bibliographies, tutorials, and other scientific and consumer-oriented resources. TEHIP also is responsible for the Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET) an integrated system of toxicology and environmental health databases that are available free of charge on the web.
TOXMAP is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that is part of TOXNET. TOXMAP uses maps of the United States to help users visually explore data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory and Superfund Basic Research Programs.
A 2019 paper linked pollution to adverse school outcomes for children.
To protect the environment from the adverse effects of pollution, many nations worldwide have enacted legislation to regulate various types of pollution as well as to mitigate the adverse effects of pollution.
Pollution control is a term used in environmental management. It means the control of emissions and effluents into air, water or soil. Without pollution control, the waste products from overconsumption, heating, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transportation and other human activities, whether they accumulate or disperse, will degrade the environment. In the hierarchy of controls, pollution prevention and waste minimization are more desirable than pollution control. In the field of land development, low impact development is a similar technique for the prevention of urban runoff.
The earliest precursor of pollution generated by life forms would have been a natural function of their existence. The attendant consequences on viability and population levels fell within the sphere of natural selection. These would have included the demise of a population locally or ultimately, species extinction. Processes that were untenable would have resulted in a new balance brought about by changes and adaptations. At the extremes, for any form of life, consideration of pollution is superseded by that of survival.
For humankind, the factor of technology is a distinguishing and critical consideration, both as an enabler and an additional source of byproducts. Short of survival, human concerns include the range from quality of life to health hazards. Since science holds experimental demonstration to be definitive, modern treatment of toxicity or environmental harm involves defining a level at which an effect is observable. Common examples of fields where practical measurement is crucial include automobile emissions control, industrial exposure (e.g. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) PELs), toxicology (e.g. LD50), and medicine (e.g. medication and radiation doses).
"The solution to pollution is dilution", is a dictum which summarizes a traditional approach to pollution management whereby sufficiently diluted pollution is not harmful. It is well-suited to some other modern, locally scoped applications such as laboratory safety procedure and hazardous material release emergency management. But it assumes that the dilutant is in virtually unlimited supply for the application or that resulting dilutions are acceptable in all cases.
Such simple treatment for environmental pollution on a wider scale might have had greater merit in earlier centuries when physical survival was often the highest imperative, human population and densities were lower, technologies were simpler and their byproducts more benign. But these are often no longer the case. Furthermore, advances have enabled measurement of concentrations not possible before. The use of statistical methods in evaluating outcomes has given currency to the principle of probable harm in cases where assessment is warranted but resorting to deterministic models is impractical or infeasible. In addition, consideration of the environment beyond direct impact on human beings has gained prominence.
Yet in the absence of a superseding principle, this older approach predominates practices throughout the world. It is the basis by which to gauge concentrations of effluent for legal release, exceeding which penalties are assessed or restrictions applied. One such superseding principle is contained in modern hazardous waste laws in developed countries, as the process of diluting hazardous waste to make it non-hazardous is usually a regulated treatment process. Migration from pollution dilution to elimination in many cases can be confronted by challenging economical and technological barriers.
Carbon dioxide, while vital for photosynthesis, is sometimes referred to as pollution, because raised levels of the gas in the atmosphere are affecting the Earth's climate. Disruption of the environment can also highlight the connection between areas of pollution that would normally be classified separately, such as those of water and air. Recent studies have investigated the potential for long-term rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to cause slight but critical increases in the acidity of ocean waters, and the possible effects of this on marine ecosystems.
The Pure Earth, an international non-for-profit organization dedicated to eliminating life-threatening pollution in the developing world, issues an annual list of some of the world's most polluting industries.
Air pollution occurs when harmful or excessive quantities of substances including gases, particles, and biological molecules are introduced into Earth's atmosphere. It may cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment. Both human activity and natural processes can generate air pollution.
Indoor air pollution and poor urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report. According to the 2014 World Health Organization report, air pollution in 2012 caused the deaths of around 7 million people worldwide, an estimate roughly echoed by one from the International Energy Agency.Clean Air Act (United States)
The Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 7401) is a United States federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level. It is one of the United States' first and most influential modern environmental laws, and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. As with many other major U.S. federal environmental statutes, it is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in coordination with state, local, and tribal governments. Its implementing regulations are codified at 40 C.F.R. Sub-chapter C, Parts 50-97.
The 1955 Air Pollution Control Act was the first U.S. federal legislation that pertained to air pollution; it also provided funds for federal government research of air pollution. The first federal legislation to actually pertain to "controlling" air pollution was the Clean Air Act of 1963. The 1963 act accomplished this by establishing a federal program within the U.S. Public Health Service and authorizing research into techniques for monitoring and controlling air pollution.It was first amended in 1965, by the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act, which authorized the federal government to set required standards for controlling the emission of pollutants from certain automobiles, beginning with the 1968 models. A second amendment, the Air Quality Act of 1967, enabled the federal government to increase its activities to investigate enforcing interstate air pollution transport, and, for the first time, to perform far-reaching ambient monitoring studies and stationary source inspections. The 1967 act also authorized expanded studies of air pollutant emission inventories, ambient monitoring techniques, and control techniques. While only six states had air pollution programs in 1960, all 50 states had air pollution programs by 1970 due to the federal funding and legislation of the 1960s. Amendments approved in 1970 greatly expanded the federal mandate, requiring comprehensive federal and state regulations for both stationary (industrial) pollution sources and mobile sources. It also significantly expanded federal enforcement. Also, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 for the purpose of consolidating pertinent federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities into one agency that ensures environmental protection.Further amendments were made in 1990 to address the problems of acid rain, ozone depletion, and toxic air pollution, and to establish a national permit program for stationary sources, and increased enforcement authority. The amendments also established new auto gasoline reformulation requirements, set Reid vapor pressure (RVP) standards to control Evaporative emissions from gasoline, and mandated new gasoline formulations sold from May to September in many states. Reviewing his tenure as EPA Administrator under President George H. W. Bush, William K. Reilly characterized passage of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act as his most notable accomplishment.The Clean Air Act was the first major environmental law in the United States to include a provision for citizen suits. Numerous state and local governments have enacted similar legislation, either implementing federal programs or filling in locally important gaps in federal programs.Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilities of the states in addressing pollution and providing assistance to states to do so, including funding for publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment; and maintaining the integrity of wetlands. It is one of the United States' first and most influential modern environmental laws. As with many other major U.S. federal environmental statutes, it is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in coordination with state governments. Its implementing regulations are codified at 40 C.F.R. Subchapters D, N, and O (Parts 100-140, 401-471, and 501-503).
Technically, the name of the law is the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The first FWPCA was enacted in 1948, but took on its modern form when completely rewritten in 1972 in an act entitled the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972. Major changes have subsequently been introduced via amendatory legislation including the Clean Water Act of 1977 and the Water Quality Act of 1987.The Clean Water Act does not directly address groundwater contamination. Groundwater protection provisions are included in the Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Superfund act.Developing country
A developing country (or a low and middle income country (LMIC), less developed country, less economically developed country (LEDC), or underdeveloped country) is a country with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no clear agreement on which countries fit this category. A nation's GDP per capita compared with other nations can also be a reference point.
The term "developing" describes a currently observed situation and not a changing dynamic or expected direction of progress. Since the late 1990s, developing countries tended to demonstrate higher growth rates than developed countries. Developing countries include, in decreasing order of economic growth or size of the capital market: newly industrialized countries, emerging markets, frontier markets, least developed countries. Therefore, the least developed countries are the poorest of the developing countries.
Developing countries tend to have some characteristics in common. For example, with regards to health risks, they commonly have: low levels of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; energy poverty; high levels of pollution (e.g. air pollution, indoor air pollution, water pollution); high proportion of people with tropical and infectious diseases (neglected tropical diseases); high number of road traffic accidents. Often, there is also widespread poverty, low education levels, inadequate access to family planning services, corruption at all government levels and a lack of so-called good governance. Effects of global warming (climate change) are expected to impact developing countries more than wealthier countries, as most of them have a high "climate vulnerability".The Sustainable Development Goals, by the United Nations, were set up to help overcome many of these problems. Development aid or development cooperation is financial aid given by governments and other agencies to support the economic, environmental, social and political development of developing countries.Emissions trading
Emissions trading (also known as cap and trade) is a market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.A central authority (usually a governmental body) allocates or sells a limited number of permits to discharge specific quantities of a specific pollutant per time period. Polluters are required to hold permits in amount equal to their emissions. Polluters that want to increase their emissions must buy permits from others willing to sell them. Financial derivatives of permits can also be traded on secondary markets.Various countries, states and groups of companies have adopted such trading systems, notably for mitigating climate change.In contrast to command-and-control environmental regulations such as best available technology (BAT) standards and government subsidies, cap and trade (CAT) programs are a type of flexible environmental regulation that allows organizations to decide how best to meet policy targets.
There are active trading programs in several air pollutants. For greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, permit units are often called carbon credits. The largest greenhouse gases (GHG) trading program is the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, which trades primarily in European Union Allowances (EUAs); the Californian scheme trades in California Carbon Allowances, the New Zealand scheme in New Zealand Units and the Australian scheme in Australian Units. The United States has a national market to reduce acid rain and several regional markets in nitrogen oxides. Recent reduction in California's GHG emissions are not attributed to carbon trading but to other factors such as renewable portfolio standards and energy efficiency policies; the 'cap' in California has been and continues to be larger than actual emission rates. GHG emissions increased at more than half of industrial point sources regulated by California's cap and trade program from 2013 to 2015.In theory, polluters who can reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the emission reduction at the lowest cost to society. Cap and trade is meant to provide the private sector with the flexibility required to reduce emissions while stimulating technological innovation and economic growth. In practice the theory can fall short. Environmental hotspots arise and impact areas nearest pollution sources when credits are purchased in lieu of emission reductions; low-income neighborhoods and people of color tend to be located near large industrial point sources and suffer adverse health and welfare effects disproportionately. In addition to environmental justice issues, historically cap and trade policy is not as effective as performance standards for reducing air pollutant emissions. For example, sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and acidic sulfate deposition decreased to a larger extent more rapidly in Europe than in the United States over similar time periods with Europe employing traditional control approaches compared to the U.S.' subsidized market approach.Environmental issues in India
There are many environmental issues in India. Air pollution, water pollution, garbage and pollution of the natural environment are all challenges for India. Nature is also causing some drastic effects on India. The situation was worse between 1947 through 1995. According to data collection and environment assessment studies of World Bank experts, between 1995 through 2010, India has made some of the fastest progress in addressing its environmental issues and improving its environmental quality in the world. Still, India has a long way to go to reach environmental quality similar to those enjoyed in developed economies. Pollution remains a major challenge and opportunity for India.
Environmental issues are one of the primary causes of disease, health issues and long term livelihood impact for India.Environmental law
Environmental law, also known as environmental and natural resources law, is a collective address environmental pollution. A related but distinct set of regulatory regimes, now strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific natural resources, such as forests, minerals, or fisheries. Other areas, such as environmental impact assessment, may not fit neatly into either category, but are nonetheless important components of environmental law.Exhaust gas
Exhaust gas or flue gas is emitted as a result of the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, petrol, biodiesel blends, diesel fuel, fuel oil, or coal. According to the type of engine, it is discharged into the atmosphere through an exhaust pipe, flue gas stack, or propelling nozzle. It often disperses downwind in a pattern called an exhaust plume.
It is a major component of motor vehicle emissions (and from stationary internal combustion engines), which can also include:
Evaporation of unused gasolineMotor vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution and are a major ingredient in the creation of smog in some large cities. A 2013 study by MIT indicates that 53,000 early deaths occur per year in the United States alone because of vehicle emissions. According to another study from the same university, traffic fumes alone cause the death of 5,000 people every year just in the United Kingdom.Light pollution
Light pollution, also known as photopollution, is the presence of anthropogenic light in the night environment. It is exacerbated by excessive, misdirected or obtrusive uses of light, but even carefully used light fundamentally alters natural conditions. As a major side-effect of urbanization, it is blamed for compromising health, disrupting ecosystems and spoiling aesthetic environments.List of environmental issues
This is an alphabetical list of environmental issues, harmful aspects of human activity on the biophysical environment. They are loosely divided into causes, effects and mitigation, noting that effects are interconnected and can cause new effects.Marine pollution
Marine pollution occurs when harmful effects result from the entry into the ocean of chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural, and residential waste, noise, or the spread of invasive organisms. Eighty percent of marine pollution comes from land. Air pollution is also a contributing factor by carrying off pesticides or dirt into the ocean. Land and air pollution have proven to be harmful to marine life and its habitats.The pollution often comes from nonpoint sources such as agricultural runoff, wind-blown debris, and dust. Nutrient pollution, a form of water pollution, refers to contamination by excessive inputs of nutrients. It is a primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters, in which excess nutrients, usually nitrates or phosphates, stimulate algae growth. Many potentially toxic chemicals adhere to tiny particles which are then taken up by plankton and benthic animals, most of which are either deposit feeders or filter feeders. In this way, the toxins are concentrated upward within ocean food chains. Many particles combine chemically in a manner highly depletive of oxygen, causing estuaries to become anoxic.
When pesticides are incorporated into the marine ecosystem, they quickly become absorbed into marine food webs. Once in the food webs, these pesticides can cause mutations, as well as diseases, which can be harmful to humans as well as the entire food web. Toxic metals can also be introduced into marine food webs. These can cause a change to tissue matter, biochemistry, behaviour, reproduction, and suppress growth in marine life. Also, many animal feeds have a high fish meal or fish hydrolysate content. In this way, marine toxins can be transferred to land animals, and appear later in meat and dairy products.
In order to protect the ocean from marine pollution, policies have been developed internationally. There are different ways for the ocean to get polluted, therefore there have been multiple laws, policies, and treaties put into place throughout history.Noise pollution
Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise or sound pollution, is the propagation of noise with harmful impact on the activity of human or animal life. The source of outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines, transport and propagation systems. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas. Some of the main sources of noise in residential areas include loud music, transportation noise, lawn care maintenance, nearby construction, or young people yelling (sports games). Noise pollution associated with household electricity generators is an emerging environmental degradation in many developing nations. The average noise level of 97.60 dB obtained exceeded the WHO value of 50 dB allowed for residential areas. Research suggests that noise pollution is the highest in low-income and racial minority neighborhoods. Documented problems associated with urban environment noise go back as far as ancient Rome.High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss. While the elderly may have cardiac problems due to noise, according to the World Health Organization, children are especially vulnerable to noise, and the effects that noise has on children may be permanent. Noise poses a serious threat to a child’s physical and psychological health, and may negatively interfere with a child's learning and behavior.Particulates
Atmospheric aerosol particles – also known as atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), particulates, or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the atmosphere of Earth. The term aerosol commonly refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone. Sources of particulate matter can be natural or anthropogenic. They have impacts on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health.
Subtypes of atmospheric particles include suspended particulate matter (SPM), thoracic and respirable particles, inhalable coarse particles, which are coarse particles with a diameter between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (μm) (PM10), fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5), ultrafine particles, and soot.
The IARC and WHO designate airborne particulates a Group 1 carcinogen. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing permanent DNA mutations, heart attacks, respiratory disease, and premature death. In 2013, a study involving 312,944 people in nine European countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose 22%. The smaller PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3 as it can penetrate deeper into the lungs. Worldwide exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 4.1 million deaths from heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and respiratory infections in 2016. Overall, ambient particulate matter ranks as the sixth leading risk factor for premature death globally.Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects (e.g.: plastic bottles and much more) in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized into micro-, meso-, or macro debris, based on size. Plastics are inexpensive and durable, and as a result levels of plastic production by humans are high. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result they are slow to degrade. Together, these two factors have led to a high prominence of plastic pollution in the environment.
Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. It is estimated that 1.1 to 8.8 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste enters the ocean from costal communities each year. Living organisms, particularly marine animals, can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects or problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Humans are also affected by plastic pollution, such as through disruption of various hormonal mechanisms.
As of 2018, about 380 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and another 12% has been incinerated. In the UK alone, more than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed each year, of which only an estimated one-quarter is recycled, with the remainder going to landfills. This large amount of plastic waste inevitably enters the environment, with studies suggesting that the bodies of 90% of seabirds contain plastic debris. In some areas there have been significant efforts to reduce the prominence of plastic pollution, through reducing plastic consumption and promoting plastic recycling.Some researchers suggest that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by weight.Smog
Smog is a type of severe air pollution. The word "smog" was coined in the early 20th century as a blending of the words smoke and fog to refer to smoky fog, its opacity, and odor. The word was then intended to refer to what was sometimes known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in Australia from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. This kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke and other particulates. Man-made smog is derived from coal combustion emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions.
Smog is often categorized as being either summer smog or winter smog. Summer smog is primarily associated with the photochemical formation of ozone. During the summer season when the temperatures are warmer and there is more sunlight present, photochemical smog is the dominant type of smog formation. During the winter months when the temperatures are colder, and atmospheric inversions are common, there is an increase in coal and other fossil fuel usage to heat homes and buildings. These combustion emissions, together with the lack of pollutant dispersion under inversions, characterize winter smog formation. While photochemical smog is the main smog formation mechanism during summer months, winter smog episodes are still common. Smog formation in general relies on both primary and secondary pollutants. Primary pollutants are emitted directly from a source, such as emissions of sulfur dioxide from coal combustion. Secondary pollutants, such as ozone, are formed when primary pollutants undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Photochemical smog, as found for example in Los Angeles, is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes. These pollutants react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. In certain other cities, such as Delhi, smog severity is often aggravated by stubble burning in neighboring agricultural areas. The atmospheric pollution levels of Los Angeles, Beijing, Delhi, Lahore, Mexico City, Tehran and other cities are often increased by an inversion that traps pollution close to the ground. The developing smog is usually toxic to humans and can cause severe sickness, a shortened life span, or premature death.Soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution as part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotic (human-made) chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, or improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (such as naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene), solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. Contamination is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical substance.
The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapors from the contaminants, and from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil. Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanups are time consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling skills, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.In North America and Western Europe the extent of contaminated land is best known, with many of countries in these areas having a legal framework to identify and deal with this environmental problem. Developing countries tend to be less tightly regulated despite some of them having undergone significant industrialization.Surface runoff
Surface runoff (also known as overland flow) is the flow of water that occurs when excess stormwater, meltwater, or other sources flows over the Earth's surface. This might occur because soil is saturated to full capacity, because rain arrives more quickly than soil can absorb it, or because impervious areas (roofs and pavement) send their runoff to surrounding soil that cannot absorb all of it. Surface runoff is a major component of the water cycle. It is the primary agent in soil erosion by water.Runoff that occurs on the ground surface before reaching a channel is also called a nonpoint source. If a nonpoint source contains man-made contaminants, or natural forms of pollution (such as rotting leaves) the runoff is called nonpoint source pollution. A land area which produces runoff that drains to a common point is called a drainage basin. When runoff flows along the ground, it can pick up soil contaminants including petroleum, pesticides, or fertilizers that become discharge or nonpoint source pollution.In addition to causing water erosion and pollution, surface runoff in urban areas is a primary cause of urban flooding which can result in property damage, damp and mold in basements, and street flooding.Taiga
Taiga (; Russian: тайга́, IPA: [tɐjˈɡa]; possibly of Turkic or Mongolic origin), generally referred to in North America as boreal forest or snow forest, is a biome characterized by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces, and larches.
The taiga or boreal forest is the world's largest land biome. In North America, it covers most of inland Canada, Alaska, and parts of the northern contiguous United States. In Eurasia, it covers most of Sweden, Finland, much of Norway and Estonia, some of the Scottish Highlands, some lowland/coastal areas of Iceland, much of Russia from Karelia in the west to the Pacific Ocean (including much of Siberia), and areas of northern Kazakhstan, northern Mongolia, and northern Japan (on the island of Hokkaidō). However, the main tree species, the length of the growing season and summer temperatures vary. For example, the taiga of North America mostly consists of spruces; Scandinavian and Finnish taiga consists of a mix of spruce, pines and birch; Russian taiga has spruces, pines and larches depending on the region, while the Eastern Siberian taiga is a vast larch forest.
A different use of the term taiga is often encountered in the English language, with "boreal forest" used in the United States and Canada to refer to only the more southerly part of the biome, while "taiga" is used to describe the more barren areas of the northernmost part of the biome approaching the tree line and the tundra biome. Hoffman (1958) discusses the origin of this differential use in North America and why it is an inappropriate differentiation of the Russian term. Although at high elevations taiga grades into alpine tundra through Krummholz, it is not exclusively an alpine biome; and unlike subalpine forest, much of taiga is lowlands.Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies, usually as a result of human activities. Water bodies include for example lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants are introduced into the natural environment. For example, releasing inadequately treated wastewater into natural water bodies can lead to degradation of aquatic ecosystems. In turn, this can lead to public health problems for people living downstream. They may use the same polluted river water for drinking or bathing or irrigation. Water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of death and disease, e.g. due to water-borne diseases.Water pollution can be grouped into surface water pollution. Marine pollution and nutrient pollution are subsets of water pollution. Sources of water pollution are either point sources and non-point sources. Point sources have one identifiable cause of the pollution, such as a storm drain, wastewater treatment plant or stream. Non-point sources are more diffuse, such as agricultural runoff. Pollution is the result of the cumulative effect over time. All plants and organisms living in or being exposed to polluted water bodies can be impacted. The effects can damage individual species and impact the natural biological communities they are part of.
The causes of water pollution include a wide range of chemicals and pathogens as well as physical parameters. Contaminants may include organic and inorganic substances. Elevated temperatures can also lead to polluted water. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers. Elevated water temperatures decrease oxygen levels, which can kill fish and alter food chain composition, reduce species biodiversity, and foster invasion by new thermophilic species.Water pollution is measured by analysing water samples. Physical, chemical and biological tests can be done. Control of water pollution requires appropriate infrastructure and management plans. The infrastructure may include wastewater treatment plants. Sewage treatment plants and industrial wastewater treatment plants are usually required to protect water bodies from untreated wastewater. Agricultural wastewater treatment for farms, and erosion control from construction sites can also help prevent water pollution. Nature-based solutions are another approach to prevent water pollution. Effective control of urban runoff includes reducing speed and quantity of flow. In the United States, best management practices for water pollution include approaches to reduce the quantity of water and improve water quality.
|Other types of pollution|
|Human impact on|
|Past and future|